Are you notorious for going over budget during the holidays? You’re not alone. Research from The Ascent shows about a third of people break the Christmas bank on everything from gifts and travel to food and decor.
Sure, it’s tough to curb your shopping. Nevertheless, it’s essential if you’re trying to keep your financial situation from getting out of hand. If you don’t, you’ll start the new year with more stress and money worries.
Not sure how to keep yourself in check—or to stop writing printed and virtual checks? Try these helpful tips.
1. Create a Comprehensive Christmas Shopping Spreadsheet
You don’t have to be overly techno-savvy to use a spreadsheet program like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. Set up a simple document that includes the names of everyone on your gift list. Then, create three columns. Two will represent the minimum and maximum amounts you want to spend on presents. The last column is reserved for what you actually spent.
Each time you buy something, add the cost to your spreadsheet next to the appropriate recipient’s name. If you want, you can even download apps so you can make adjustments in real time. By forcing yourself to see the whole picture, you’ll become more realistic. Having a spreadsheet can also reduce impulse buying.
2. Look for Automatic Ways to Save
Searching for coupons and promo codes online can shave serious dollars off your holiday buys. But what about when you can’t get around paying retail? In these cases, you can still look for ways to automatically save. For instance, Rakuten.com has a great strategy. When you set up an account with them, you get automatic discounts at lots of merchants in store and digitally. Over time, all those bucks add up, and you get paid four times yearly.
Another no-brainer way to save is by choosing your plastic carefully. Try an online debit card with a round-up feature. Every time you purchase anything with your card, the company rounds the price up to the nearest dollar. That round-up amount goes into a separate savings account, getting bigger without requiring any heavy lifting. Other ways to make cards automatically work for you is to pick ones that offer cash-back bonuses and points redemptions.
3. Put Limits on “Stocking Stuffers”
Small things like so-called stocking stuffers can start to add up fast. Over time, all those tiny purchases can wind up blowing your budget without you realizing it. Who wants the shock of wasting money on trinkets instead of on more important major items?
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hand out tiny treasures. You just need a way to put the brakes on overspending. A good way is to carry a “stocking stuffer” envelope in your wallet. Fill it with the total amount of cash you want to spend on mini gifts. When the cash runs out, you’re done. No fuss and no questions asked.
4. Encourage “Secret Santa” Gift-Giving
Getting involved in Secret Santa gift-giving isn’t just fun. It also keeps you from having to buy too many presents. Many workplaces prefer the Secret Santa system. Larger families appreciate it, too. It’s a nice way to ensure that you can get a great, personalized item for one person instead of trying to buy for everyone at your office or in your extended family.
If you’ve never been involved in a Secret Santa party, you’re in for a treat. Every person buys one gift for one other person. Names are drawn privately, so your recipient won’t know you got them—and you won’t know who got you. Usually, a maximum cap is put on gifts to temper people from extravagant spending.
5. Buy All Online Gifts Sooner Rather Than Later
Are you someone who scours the web for gifts? You’re in the majority of shoppers. National Public Radio’s poll findings from 2019 indicated 76% of consumers bought products and services online. There’s just one issue that you’ll want to watch out for: The longer you wait, the more expensive online buying can be during the holidays.
Like all businesses, e-retailers want to woo you early. Therefore, they offer their best deals early in the Christmas season. As Christmas nears, you’ll see that prices aren’t as good on all items. Plus, you may have to pay high shipping fees to be sure your package arrives on time. So shop online, but do it wisely by making decisions within the first week or two of December.
6. Spend Less on Yourself
Sometimes, you just want to buy someone you love a big ticket item. In that case, you may be wise to scrimp a bit on what you would normally spend on yourself. Otherwise, you’d be forced to either sabotage your spending budget or put everything on a credit card.
Is it tough to say “no” to ordering peppermint lattes for lunch or getting a personal service like a manicure? Yes, but it teaches you discipline. Plus, it may be worth the sacrifice. To be sure, this can be a tough choice to make. However, you’ll be better off than you would be if you kept spending money and discovered you were broke on January 1.
7. Begin Saving for Next Holiday Season Immediately After the Ball Drops
It’s not too soon to begin thinking about next holiday season, even though it’s 11 months away. A proven way to avoid feeling a huge pinch next year is to set up a savings account. Every week, put a specific amount into the account and leave it there.
How much could your investment grow in a year’s time? Ten dollars weekly adds up to more than $300 annually, and $25 a week will net no less than $1,000. Why worry about the holiday season you know will eventually come around? Preparing now means you’ll have a head start.
Christmas giving shouldn’t leave you in a fiscal lurch. At the same time, you probably don’t have to do away with all spending around the holidays. Just be practical and reasonable. It’s easier than you might assume, and it’s a surefire way to stay on top of expenses year-round.
Angela is a senior editor at Dreniq News. She has written for many famous news agencies.